Sunday, May 25, 2014

Valley Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Valley Presbyterian Church, 237 Main Street, Imperial, PA 15126, 724.695.0300, www.valleychurchweb.com, Rev. Ben Robbins, Pastor.


Scripture – Luke 24:44-53

"He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God."


Bob’s thoughts:

I like visiting Valley Presbyterian: the sanctuary is simple but pretty and the chancel is pleasant. There are mini lights strung to remind members to pray for the missing girls in Nigeria.

I appreciated hearing the vocals and piano during the anthem; I could not tell if anyone was singing during the other songs. I enjoyed the piano and appreciated how she tapered off when the offering was collected.

This is the only church I can remember that projects the children on the screen during their message. Much appreciated.

The sermon, “The Next Thing,” was developed from the apostles’ reaching another level of understanding…they went from observers to witnesses.

I wish we could have stayed to learn more of how the church is doing with their new pastor.


Jan’s thoughts:

This morning, as I asked God where He wanted us to worship, this church came clearly to mind. Although we have been here three times before, it has been 2½ years since we last worshiped here.

The signage is very good, we were warmly greeted, and there is not much to add to our previous comments.

This congregation is displaying a light for each of the Nigerian girls who were kidnapped as they pray for the girls’ safe return.

The music is blended, with a couple of traditional hymns and a praise team leading more contemporary songs.

During the children’s message the gathering of young ones was projected for all to see. I am virtually certain this is the only church where we have seen this, and it is always a joy.

In the sermon, “The Next Thing,” the pastor spoke of the “Now what?” that would certainly have been going through the minds of Christ’s followers after watching Him ascend into heaven. He pointed out that we only understand as we look back and reflect on what we have observed.


Our prayer for this church:

Lord, we pray You bring us and this church to a new level of understanding. Open us all to be more than observers. Amen.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Carnegie Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Carnegie Presbyterian Church, 219 Ewing Road, Carnegie, PA 15106, 412.279.3223, www.carnegiepresby.org, Rev. Jeff Tindall, Pastor.


Scripture

Proverbs 3:5-6
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."

Ecclesiastes 7:8-12
"The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.

Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun.

Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it."


Bob’s thoughts:

Having some family ties to the original Carnegie Church, I always look forward to visiting the current location. Our timing hasn’t been the greatest: I think this is the third visit and we still haven’t heard the pastor preach. However today was the Youth Sunday contemporary service so we got to see a little more of the youth including “This Little Light of Mine” at the close of the service.

When the two Carnegie churches merged to form this congregation, they brought a large circular stained glass window from one of the buildings and beneath it now sits a beautiful large cross. There are two large monitors, but there seemed to be some difficulty projecting the messages. After enjoying an Order of worship last week, today I missed having one.

I noticed a marked improvement in a member for whom I was praying.

The message by the youth leader, “Time to Get Started,” led to “everything ends.” Our youth live in the present whereas elders tend to live with a nostalgic view of the past as being so much better.

God is in the past, the future, and the here and now. I usually get a good answer to what He wants me to do right now, and know it will lead to where He wants me to be then.


Jan’s thoughts:

We attended the traditional service here just under a year ago, and it turned out today was Youth Sunday, so after two visits here we still have yet to hear the pastor preach. Oh well, sooner or later…

The building and grounds are well kept, and I sensed a definite family feel to the atmosphere. A few people smiled at us.

The praise band, Hidden Talents, is comprised of gifted musicians and a variety of age groups. Their sound was inspiring, especially on a fairly new song, “Lay Me Down.”

We got to hear Alex White, the Director of Christian Ed and Youth Ministries, speak to the youth of the church in a message called “Time to Get Started.” He got right to the point when he began by referring to the movie “Ferris Buehler’s Day Off” as stated in the last line of the movie: “Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop to look around once in a while, you miss it.” He advised not to let the past ruin your present, and to remember fondly the past, enjoy the present, and anticipate the future.

He reminded that our earthly experience comes with an expiration date, but because of Jesus the end is better than the beginning.

I hope the youth heed his excellent advice.


Our prayer for this church:

Lord, we pray this church can be a church of right now. May they go where You send them. Amen.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown

Today we worshiped at First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown, P.O. Box 127, 58 Heckert Road, Bakerstown, PA 15007, 724.443.1555, www.fpcb.org, Rev. Dan Muttart, Senior Pastor.


Scripture – John 6:1-15

"Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself."


Bob’s thoughts:

We were welcomed at the door and engaged in conversation then graciously given a tour that included details about building usage, but oddly during the passing of the peace we were mostly ignored. I thought those with large nametags would be quicker to extend greetings.

The sanctuary boasts a large cross and some truly outstanding banners on the walls.

When we entered the sanctuary we were told the front pews were roped off for the families present for baptism. It was surprising and contrary for a Presbyterian church…you can never get people to sit down front.

The choir’s anthem was enjoyable and the four women who presented the offertory were fantastic.

We were blessed to be there for baptisms, Mother’s Day salute, and a commissioning of a young woman leaving on a mission trip to a national park in Alaska.

The sermon, “Making Sense of Miracles,” was appropriate for Mother’s Day. The core was Christ feeding 5,000 with a few fish and loaves. Realizing the total to be fed was more likely twice that or more counting the women and children, what came to mind was the oft told story of mothers who, when they realized there was little to eat, decided they weren’t hungry after all. But Christ fed them all…God always blesses abundantly.

The pastor pointed out that God provides for our real spiritual rescue and the provisions are real.

My one exception to the message is, God will answer your prayer. It may not be the answer you want or understand, but He answers our prayers.

Recently I was laid up for more than a week with considerable pain around my left knee. I’ve been wounded in the knees and done a lot of dumb things over the years, so pain is a close companion. The pain got bad enough to remind me to pray for myself, and I woke up four days ago totally pain free. God has let me bring His healing to others, but I needed a reminder to pray for myself.


Jan’s thoughts:

It has been some time since we visited this beautiful church. Upon entering we were warmly greeted and handed bulletins then engaged in friendly conversation and an elder was kind enough to take time to show us around and convey some of the history.

The gorgeous hand-made banners decorating the sanctuary were stunning.

All the music was excellent and the choir was particularly enchanting. Beginning worship with two consecutive hymns is unusual for what would be considered a traditional service, but it was well done. I especially appreciated the descant in Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty! I think it adds so much. And the women’s ensemble that presented the offertory anthem was inspiring.

It was a busy service that included commissioning a young woman for a summer mission trip and three baptisms, one a believer’s baptism, the father of one of the infants. How exciting and special! It brought back wonderful memories of when Bob joined church along with one of our daughters.

In the sermon, “Making Sense of Miracles,” the pastor asked if our loving God might have a higher purpose when He does not perform a miracle.

In the Scripture, Christ had just performed the miracle of feeding the five thousand when He rejected the desire of the people to make Him king because He had something better than the miracles to give. Instead of a miracle, God will rescue us, He will provide perfectly, and He will provide an over-abundance so that “it bubbles over and touches the lives of others.”

I have noticed that when God has blessed me, those blessings involve others as well. Not that He would be unwilling to bless me only, but when His best comes, it blesses others too, which in turn re-blesses me.


Our prayer for this church:

Lord, may this church be encouraged to come to You in prayer expecting Your abundant blessings. Amen.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Heritage Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Heritage Presbyterian Church, 2262 Rochester Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15237, 412.366.1338, www.heritagepcusa.org, Rev. Brian Janssen, Pastor.


Scripture

Isaiah 40:6-11

"A voice says, “Cry out.”

And I said, “What shall I cry?”

“All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.

The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass.

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”

You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain.

You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”

See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm.

See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young."

Revelation 7:9-10

"After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”"


Bob’s thoughts:

I got to hold grandchildren for a good portion of the service so was unable to take many notes. I enjoyed how the service progressed and had forgotten what an asset an Order of Worship was. It was wonderful to sing familiar worship songs and reconnect with friends.

A point from the Stegemans’ message stuck with me as they told us of their efforts to bring the Bible to Papua New Guineans in their language. I believe they said there are 8,000 languages in New Guinea, making this an even more phenomenal undertaking, compounded by New Guinea’s pay-back culture and the inroads the devil has there.

It all brought to mind a dear old friend who was stationed in Papua New Guinea during World War II. While exploring upriver from where they drew their water, he discovered a village of cannibals. He managed to communicate with them and they accepted him. Later in life he was sure the Paget’s Disease from which he suffered was caused by that water supply.

I had a similar experience in Vietnam at an orphanage with an old carpenter who took care of the place. We came in to build new desks for them, but we came as ugly Americans, ignoring him and his work and place in the orphanage. I wandered around back and met him; he was slicing a log with a primitive bow saw cutting towards his bare feet as he stood atop the log. With our shared abilities in carpentry we were able to communicate and come to an understanding, he was able to save face, and the children got new desks.

I thought about these two encounters and what it would take to communicate Christ…a perspective of the awesome accomplishments of the Wycliffe Bible Translators.


Jan’s thoughts:

It was a joy to worship with many friends today, as well as family.

Heritage supports Wycliffe Bible Translators through its mission budget and Dee and Ray Stegeman were there to present the message and update the congregation on their work.

The Stegemans joined Wycliffe Bible Translators in 1994 and in 1995 they took their one-year-old daughter to Guyana, South America to begin their Bible translation work. Their son was born in Guyana, and both of their children are now out of high school. The Stegemans currently serve in Papua New Guinea, an island country north of Australia, as their work in South America was completed after 15 years there.

The statistics were fascinating: there are 6,919 languages in the world; only 513 have the entire Bible translated; 2,312 have part of the Bible translated. A total of 4,096 languages have no published Scripture, and Wycliffe works to remedy that.

We got to watch two videos that clearly demonstrated the joy and celebration of two groups of people upon receiving copies of the Bible translated into “the language that speaks best to their hearts.”

Ray and Dee stressed that many various and unexpected skill sets are needed to assist in this work and anyone with a heart to become involved can begin by checking out the website at www.wycliffe.org.

I have heard the Stegemans’ names for years and find their work intriguing. It is hard to imagine not having access to the Word of God in my own language, and I must believe God smiles when His Word is born in a culture and then in human hearts. What an amazing ministry.


Our prayer for this church:

Lord, we pray You continue to encourage and guide Heritage Church and Wycliffe Bible Translators as they fight the spiritual warfare they encounter. Amen.